Kate Abbott: Finding the warmth in Summer Previews


Phoenixes are flying in the sun, Nikki Giovanni is reading her poetry aloud, Jeff Tweedy is tuning his guitar in the rain, Winslow Homer and Louisa May Alcott are walking down Mass. Ave. at night and talking about English fishing villages and Mount Monadnoc, and Mark Hewitt is feeding wood into a 40-foot-long Japanese-style kiln that holds pots four feet tall.

My head is full of summer.

For a month now, I've been gathering plans and events, and talking with people about their summer hopes. I am building the annual Summer Previews line by line.

The magazine will come out in the Eagle on Friday, May 10.

It is the sum of the summer. It holds the mass and energy of the creativity of the Berkshires. And I spend a month in hyperdrive, talking with the people who make the Berkshire summer happen.

We've shared coffee and conversation, and they have given me glimpses of the feel and sound and even smell of what they do. What is it like to throw salt into a burning kiln, so it will melt as a glaze?

Do the pots glow like molten glass, like the cups I once saw in a raku kilm and helped to remove with iron tongs while they were still red hot? Does the land around the kiln have the musk of ankle-deep pine needles under the wood smoke?

This, in a microcosm, is why I love my job.

I can talk to people about what they love making, and write about it -- and look for the nub of energy that will draw us out together.

It's the energy my brother taps when he says come canoeing, and we hoist the aluminum canoe onto the truck and take it to the pond, as we haven't done for a year -- my dad teaches us a slip knot that will stay taut under pressure -- and we find frog's eggs floating in the reeds, and a woodpecker echoing from the shore, and a warmth we had forgotten.

There's an energy that gets me moving. And I find it when I put stories together. I find it when a set of events and people share the same pulse.

Mark Hewitt told me there's strength in numbers -- the strength of an artistic community gives him the freedom to do what he does and to use what he knows.

And I find that energy when I get into a story I'm writing, in far enough that I can see Winslow Homer's fishermen in northern Canada and also the books he underlined, the letters he wrote, the view from his window when he painted them.

Then I feel as though I can walk into the studio and find Homer in his arm chair at Prout's Neck, reading the latest studies of ocean currents, while the tide comes in.

And, as Nikki Giobanni writes, in "Space," we sit down to talk.


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